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Canada should join ballistic missile defence system, but it will cost us: experts

WATCH: Ballistic Missile Defence has suffered from negative coverage: Macdonald

The Canadian government must consider paying up to join the U.S. ballistic missile defence program, say a former diplomat and a former NORAD commander.

In a panel discussion on The West Block with Vassy Kapelos, former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson and retired Lt-Gen. George Macdonald agreed that the time has come to take steps to actively protect Canada in the event of a ballistic missile strike like the ones being threatened by North Korea.

At the moment, Canada has no means to defend itself against such a strike should a missile be aimed at us, or veer off course after being aimed at a U.S. city.

READ MORE: U.S. won’t defend Canada during North Korean missile attack, official says

“I think that the NORAD mission, which has been aerospace warning and defence for almost 60 years now, always included ballistic missile warning, but a natural extension of (missile) defence was not agreed to by the Canadian government in 2005,” said Macdonald, a former deputy commander-in-chief at NORAD.

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That decision came as a surprise to many within the joint defence organization, he noted.

WATCH: U.S. won’t defend Canada from North Korea attack

NORAD: U.S. won’t defend Canada from North Korea attack
NORAD: U.S. won’t defend Canada from North Korea attack

But the U.S. ballistic missile defence program (BMD) suffered from a great deal of bad press a decade ago, Macdonald said.

At the time, there were concerns that it was destabilizing from a global military perspective, that the costs were too high and that it simply it didn’t work (the complexity of stopping a nuclear-armed missile mid-flight has been compared to hitting a bullet with another bullet).

“In the 10 or 12 years that have passed since then, the system has evolved,” Macdonald told Kapelos. “There is more confidence in the ability to defend against a ballistic missile attack … I think it’s topical now to revisit the situation.”

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Robertson said Canada will need to go in with “eyes open,” however, especially as the Americans have no real motivation to bring us into the fold. Ottawa will need to commit resources, and money, to the endeavour. So far, there have not been any signals that the government is preparing to change its position.

“I think if we want in now we’re going to have to pay for it,” Robertson said.

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“There is a piece in the (Canadian Armed Forces) defence policy review which says that we will be looking with the Americans at all threats to North America, so this would give the government the political cover they need to take a look at this.”

Watch the full panel discussion above.

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